Thursday, March 25, 2021

Third Rome Opposes Itself to the Provinces Just as First Rome Did, Siberian Émigré Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 23 – In classical times, the residents of the first Rome opposed their “eternal city” to “the dangerous ‘provinces,’” Now, the residents of Moscow who sometimes style their city “the third Rome” do the same thing, viewing it as the source of all life and the lands around it dead, Tatyana Vintsevskaya says (

            The Siberian émigré points to the remarks of Moscow scenarist Dmitry Glukhovsky who openly acknowledges that “the world of the Russian backwards for [him] is the world of the dead” (

            In his imagination, as shown in his designs, she continues, “the entrance of five Muscovites into Arkhangelsk Oblast looks like a bad drug trip. They land in some kind of terra incognita, a frightening place leading to sarcasm.” But what is especially unfortunate is that Muscovites view all the regions as an undifferentiated space and expect others to as well.

            In movies and television shows produced by Muscovites, residents of this enormous space “look unbelievably strange” with most of the people from “the provinces” a group of “frostbitten imbeciles” invariably contrasted with the highly developed personalities of  those who live in the third Rome, Vintsevskaya says.

            Not only do recent films and television programs divide the country between Moscow and Russia but they make the capital the only real center of life and treat everywhere else as if it was swamp without interest or possibility of change. That is not the way life works, but it is how life is presented to viewers in Putin’s Russia now.

            Thirty years ago, during perestroika, at least some films attempted to take the regions and their populations seriously. One in particular, Karen Shakhnazarov’s City Zero was truly magical in that it showed that people in the regions were both alive and wanted change. Now, unfortunately, the director appears on Russian talk shows suggesting just the reverse.

            “But if the hero of ‘City Zero’ in the finale does make an attempt at flight,” Vintsevskaya says, “the heroes of ‘The Swamp’ now remain where they are,” seemingly oblivious to any possibilities. As long as Russians think that way, she concludes, few are going to try to “escape the imperial swamps” the lands outside of Moscow are now being presented as being.

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